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What are Heart Tumors?

Tumors may develop in or around the heart, arising either directly from the heart tissue or spreading from another part of the body. Hemangiosarcoma is the by far the most common form of heart tumor found in dogs though it is rare overall. Large breed dogs like the Golden Retriever are predisposed to the condition. The prognosis for dogs with hemangiosarcoma is poor, but prompt surgical treatment prior to metastasis may increase your dog’s odds of survival.

Hemangiosarcoma is rare but aggressive and is the most common type of heart tumor found in dogs. Tumors affect the heart’s ability to pump blood, which leads to weakness and lethargy. If hemangiosarcoma is left untreated, the tumor may rupture, filling the sac around the heart with blood and resulting in sudden collapse.

Heart Tumors Average Cost

From 39 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

Symptoms of Heart Tumors in Dogs

Some dogs with heart tumors show mild to no clinical signs while others may have more severe symptoms depending on the extent of the cancer. Symptoms are primarily nonspecific and include:

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Pain
  • Collapse

Symptoms that relate to the heart and may correlate to the tumor, versus the tumor itself:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of appetite, disinterest in treats or snacks
  • Accumulation of fluid within the chest cavity, abdominal cavity, or visible abdomen stretching
  • Weight loss
Types

Heart tumors may arise from heart tissue or may metastasize from other areas of the body. The most common type of heart tumors are hemangiosarcomas, which typically involve the right side of the heart. Other types include:

  • Chemodectoma

    - rare and slow growing. These tumors have been found in dogs in two forms, 1.) carotid body tumor and 2.) aortic body tumor. Affected dogs are usually older (7+), and brachycephalic (broad with a short skull) breeds, such as Boxers, have seen an increase in diagnosis. Chemodectoma will display itself through coughing, lack of desire to exercise, and random difficulty breathing.

  • Fibroma

    - usually discrete and non-invasive, cutaneous fibroma have been reported in Doberman, Boxer, and Golden Retrievers. Fibroma will commonly develop in the head, mouth, and extremities.

  • Granular cell

    - commonly formed in the tongue or head, granular cells are characterized by a large amount of collagen tissue.

  • Lipofibroma
    • particularly uncommon, lipofibroma is being researched by oncologists.
  • Myxoma
    • slow growing and locally destructive, these tumors affect joint tissue, kidneys, heart, teeth, and bone. Myxoma is more frequently reported in large-breed dogs with most cases leading to congestive heart failure.
  • Teratoma
    • rare, benign, and locally invasive, teratoma are characterized by germ cell tumors containing skin, tissue, and in some cases, bone. Most often developing in young felines, up to 6 years in age, symptoms will display as abdominal pain, weight loss, and an inflated abdomen.
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    Causes of Heart Tumors in Dogs

    Much as with other cancer types, there is currently no known cause for heart tumors in dogs. There is an interesting correlation to certain large breed dogs, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers, are predisposed to hemangiosarcoma, in particular, but heart tumors may develop in any dog. The condition typically affects middle-aged to older dogs.

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    Diagnosis of Heart Tumors in Dogs

    As with any veterinarian visit, it's especially important to provide the veterinarian a thorough history of your dog's recent health. This should include behavioral changes, accidents (interaction with wildlife, sprained leg, getting into the pantry), living patterns, and any spouts of illness that may have gone unreported due to skipping the veterinarian's office.

    Because heart tumors are not detectable on the surface, asymptomatic dogs are usually diagnosed when they receive radiographs as part of the diagnostic process for another condition. However, if your dog is exhibiting unusual behavior or general weakness, the veterinarian will conduct basic tests as part of the initial examination. These may include blood work and a urinalysis, along with an electrocardiogram if the veterinarian suspects heart problems.

    Heart tumors are typically diagnosed through a combination of history, physical findings, and clinical laboratory analysis. The presence of the tumor can be confirmed with a chest radiograph or with echocardiography, which uses sound waves to create an image of the heart. Depending on the location and extent of the heart tumor, the veterinarian may recommend further testing to support the diagnosis of heart tumors and to discover if metastasis is present. These tests include a complete blood count and biochemistry profile, cytological analysis, imaging, and analysis of fluids withdrawn from the abdomen. If the veterinarian encounters a particularly interesting, rare, or developed case, she may refer you to a specialized cancer doctor, or oncologist. Oncology is a growing specialty within veterinary care that is working to catch-up to the needs of dog owners.

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    Treatment of Heart Tumors in Dogs

    Treatment plans will vary depending on the location of the tumor, the extent of metastasis, and the overall condition of your dog. Hemangiosarcoma carries a poor prognosis if left untreated, as the tumor may lead to bleeding below the pericardium, which is a thin membrane that encloses the heart. This places additional pressure on the heart and may prevent it from pumping blood. As part of treatment, the veterinarian may need to drain the blood from beneath the pericardium so that the heart can resume to its normal function.

    Surgery and chemotherapy are both potential options for treating a heart tumor. In either case, the veterinarian will most likely refer you to a specialist who is better equipped to address the condition. Surgical treatment is not usually recommended, especially with hemangiosarcoma, as the tumors will most likely have metastasized by the time of diagnosis. However, if the tumor is small and has not yet spread, surgery may be able to remove it completely.

    Chemotherapy can control the tumor’s growth and limit metastasis, and certain types of heart tumors may respond to the medication.

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    Recovery of Heart Tumors in Dogs

    If your dog underwent surgery successfully, you should now focus on providing a safe, quiet place where he or she can recover. Limit physical activity, and inspect the surgical site daily for signs of infection.

    Following either surgery or chemotherapy, the veterinarian will need to examine your dog again in order to ensure that the tumors are either gone or are under control. Unfortunately, heart tumors can be aggressive, and hemangiosarcoma is not often curable. Most dogs with hemangiosarcoma do not live long even with treatment. If your dog is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, you may wish to focus on maintaining your dog’s quality of life with advice from the veterinarian.

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    Heart Tumors Average Cost

    From 39 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $15,000

    Average Cost

    $10,000

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    Heart Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

    Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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    Ask a Vet

    dog-name-icon

    Mickey

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    Boston Terrier

    dog-age-icon

    11 Years

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    Serious severity

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    2 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Swelling
    Lethargy
    Tired
    Short Of Breath
    Dry Cough

    I began noticing that my Boston's tummy was swelling up, way past gaining a bit of weight. I was devastated to find out after an ultrasound that she has a large cancerous tumor on her heart, as well as fluid around her heart and a murmur. I am finally accepting that there is nothing that can be done, and just want to spend time with her and make her comfortable. The vet suggested to drain her stomach, but when he began the process the extraction was blood, not "water", so he felt best not to do that, which I agreed. She has been home for a few weeks since diagnosis. Her belly has not expanded, but the dry cough is getting worse, and now she is "biting at imaginary flies" yes I had to actually look that up, thinking that I was seeing things. Almost like she's getting dementia. She is lethargic and listless, doesn't sleep real well, and obviously her breathing is not regular though not really labored. My question, is she suffering? She has not shown any "signs" of pain, but I am at a stalemate here, I know what will have to be done, but is she at that bad quality of life yet? I don't believe in the "she'll let you know" they can't really let us know. I know that you cannot tell me what to do, as that is a personal decision, but could you possibly offer some input? Thank you so much.

    July 1, 2018

    Mickey's Owner


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    2 Recommendations

    It isn’t a case of she’ll let you know, but more of a you know her better than anyone and will be able to notice changes in behaviour which would indicate that she isn’t the same Mickey anymore; one thing to do is to look back at any photos of her from a few months or a year ago to compare with how she is now. Without examining her, I cannot give you any indication myself; however, dogs are stoic and do hide their pain until the end. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

    July 1, 2018

    my dog has been fighting a heart based cancer for a while. i took her to colorado state university in feb for radiation because surgery was not possible. Her tumor shrunk by 20% and stopped growing for the time being. its not cheap. been doing great until a few weeks ago. the other option i know of is chemo pills. dont know how well they work. good luck

    July 6, 2018

    Gary

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    Cooper

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    Golden Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    9 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

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    1 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

    Has Symptoms

    Only After Chemo

    Cooper is 9yrs old. He had his left leg removed 2 years ago due to a malignant mass on foot. All ultrasounds since normal. Last week, dog got sick, throwing up, some lethargy, drinking lots of water. Took him to ER vet early morning, got in the door, and he just laid down and would not move. Had to be carried to back room. Vet came and told us his condition was emergent. Pale gums, semi conscious. Was told tumor on heart bled into pericardial sac. Right heart mass, Suspected hemangiosarcoma. Could drain or euthanize. Opted to drain, and Cooper bounced back. Was told chemotherapy may extend life by 6 months. His oncologist started chemo right away with Doxorubicin 2mg/ml with Diphenhydramine 50mg/ml injection. Not like first chemo for foot. He is SO sick afterwards, won’t eat for 4 days. Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, takes about 10 days to recover. Thinking we should stop chemo. Quality of life we think important. But may only get weeks with him. Suggestions helpful. We are so torn. Do not want him to suffer. Will we know when it’s time to euthanize, or will he just collapse for lack of oxygen? Can chemo put him into remission?

    June 12, 2018

    Cooper's Owner

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    It does sound like an hemangiosarcoma and it may bleed again at any time. You need to have a serious conversation with your Oncologist about the use of chemotherapy, since it can take a toll on quality of life for the days after administration; remission with hemangiosarcoma is rare especially without surgical excision of the tumour. The Chinese medicine yunnan baiyao may be given (speak with your Veterinarian or Oncologist first) which has shown some promise in some bleeding disorders. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

    June 13, 2018

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    cacao

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    Labrador Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    13 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Fair severity

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    4 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Fair severity

    Has Symptoms

    my 13 years old Lab was euthanised two days ago and I feel like dying myself...saturday we ran to the hospital because he had like a seizure in the morning, he didn't take food in the morning as he usually does, they gave him pills for pain (thinking his arthritic condition could be a source of pain and cause the seizure ) but he didn't even swallowed them though he could walk a little when we arrived home...he was very tired and at some point lethargic, we took him again to the ER and they found he had tons of liquid in his heart and abdomen apparently because of a heart base tumor that wasn't visible because of so much liquid (hemangiosarcoma was the guess). since some time ago he's been suffering from arthritis and has been coughing (like hacking) all the time (they told me it often happens in old dogs and that i didn't need to worry). I was told there was a possibility to drain the liquid but that it would happen again in one hour, one day, one week....and that I couldn't bring him home in such bad condition. he had trouble breathing so they put him oxygen to ease his breathing... finally the word Euthanise came and in less than two hours later we came home crying like crazy and without our angel dog Cacao. I still don't understand what and how this happened I just know my sweet dog was fairly well for an old arthritic dog and that today he's gone in the most horrific way. does this makes sense? is it possible for such a tumor if that was a tumor to be so unnoticed to this such quick final. PLEASE HELP ME UNDERSTAND

    March 26, 2018

    cacao's Owner


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    Dr. Michele K. DVM

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    4 Recommendations

    I'm so sorry for your loss. Certain types of tumors are sadly common in dogs, as they get older. A lot of times these tumors grow slowly, and don't cause any signs or problems, until they grow too large, and burst, and that very quickly becomes a life threatening problem. The sad part of these situations is that they often don't survive, but the somewhat positive part is that they don't suffer. It sounds like Cacao went quickly, and didn't suffer, even though you will miss him terribly. I am very sorry.

    March 26, 2018

    I just lost my beautiful golden retriever two days ago to the same thing. I had no idea she was sick, although, about a year ago the vet told me she had a larger heart than normal but not to be concerned. I guess there must have been a reason for concern now looking back. But I trusted my vet. My beautiful Sheila woke up that morning very happy and greeted the other dogs with a kiss as she always did because she was such a loving dog. I did not notice any difference in her behavior until later that evening when she suddenly started breathing very hard. She had breathed hard before once in awhile so I didn't get alarmed at first, but her breathing was Far heavier than normal and she seem to be struggling. I rushed her to the emergency vet only to find out the diagnosis and that her little lungs add filled with blood. I had no choice but to let her go that night. From the time I first noticed her heavy breathing till the time I said goodbye it was only 2 hours. My other dogs are very sad looking for her, as I am. I am thankful that she did not suffer, sad and not prepared for her to go, but like I said, very thankful she did not suffer. Unfortunately, dogs just don't live long enough in my opinion. But I will never stop having one with me they are faithful loving companion

    June 4, 2018

    Patti C.


    Not sure if my other comment posted... In any case, thank you to all three of you. Your comments have helped me realize that I wasn't crazy. Our 11.5 yr old boy had to say goodbye on May 22nd. He exhibited "seizure" like symptoms a few weeks ago just like you mentioned. Then he "recovered" and then it all went down hill so fast. Vomit, no eating, etc. Ended up in the ER and they said all three cavities filled with blood and fluid. Its not that I didnt believe the vet, I just didnt understand how he could go from chasing squirrels at full speed to needing to be euthanized so quickly. I was extra glad to read that he wasn't in pain. We gave him medacam because he also had arthritis so I'm convinced any pain he may have had was knocked out anyways. It was just tough to have to say goodbye so fast...and so suddenly. Know that your words have helped us immensely. Best to all of you

    May 24, 2018

    Mike M.


    Thanks to all three of you. We had the same situation the night of May 22nd. Struggling for a few weeks..thought it was a seizure...then vomit...vet looked at him and said no distress. Then 24 hrs later we are in the ER and had to make the difficult decision. Its not that I didn't believe the vet...it was just hard to understand how it could all happen so fast and so severely. I had never even heard of heart cancer that can burst and fill their cavities with blood and fluid. Your comments have helped me heal and realize that I'm not crazy and that I did the right thing. I'm glad he didn't suffer. Best to you all!

    May 24, 2018

    Mike M.


    Just had to let our Jax go tonight due to the same diagnosis. He had been panting for at least a year and the vet never could find a reason. I believe this was one of the signs. Jax has an upset stomach for a couple days and didn’t eat at all today. He also would not exert himself due to lack of energy. His breathing changed tonight and he didn’t want to move so we took him to the emergency hospital. He touched everyone with his sweetness. Just a wonderful papillon that will be deeply missed.

    May 19, 2018

    Lisa S.

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    Buddy

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    Border collie mix

    dog-age-icon

    13 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

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    0 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

    Has Symptoms

    Our dog Buddy has a large mass that takes up the whole right ventricle of his heart. The vet told us it is growing through the septum into the left ventricle so his heart has very low contractility. We had noticed his activity level drop and he seemed to not be feeling well. He is 13ish (stray we took in when he was maybe 2 years old, just a guess) and has arthritis in his spine so that's what we thought was going on. The night before his vet appointment he collasped. Turns out it was a syncopic episode. Our vet ran some tests and was concerned with an elevated heart rate. Referred us to a vet with more cardiac experience an hour away. They found the growth in an ultrasound and ecg. They said due to the size and location there was nothing they could do. Gave us Pimobendan to help try to increase his heart contactility. That was 3 1/2 weeks ago. They said they didn't know what to tell us to expect since they never seen a tumor that large in a dog's heart before but they gave him a poor prognosis and said he did not have much time left. Buddy is mentally fine and doesn't seem to be in pain but he cannot walk more than 10-20 feet without needing a rest or collapsing. His condition worsens daily. Gums are very pale, feet cold, he gets wobbly if he stands up too long. Needless to say we've been spoiling him as much as possible. Over the last week he has stared to get very bad diarrhea which is very difficult to deal with. He really is only eating rice, kibble, boiled chicken, pumpkin. We have tried just rice and broth and it doesn't change anything. Is it possible it's the medicine? Should we stop giving it to him? Anything safe to treat the diarrhea? Our hearts are broken and this is a terribly hard situation. He is still very much himself mentally and doesn't seem to be in pain so we are not ready to make the decision to say goodbye. We just want to keep him comfortable.

    March 25, 2018

    Buddy's Owner

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    Common side effects of pimobendan (Vetmedin) include diarrhoea; other possible side effects include loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea, dyspnea, azotemia, weakness and ataxia (see link below). Without examining Buddy it is difficult to weigh in, but I would continue giving the pimobendan to help the heart contract as it seems that there is a poor level of blood circulation already to his extremities and any physical exertion result in collapse; also keep in mind that you cannot stop pimobendan cold turkey if given over a long period of time. A decision to euthanise is down to you, but you need to look not only at whether Buddy is in pain but also his quality of life. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.vetmedin.com/safety_and_dosing/record_of_safe_use.aspx

    March 25, 2018

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    Copper

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    Labrador Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    9 Months

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Weight Loss

    I have a 9 month old puppy lab he has a dry cough followed by hacking lethargic loss appetite took him to the vet. Vet Send me home with a 5 day supply of amoxicillin. 7 day pass still not better took him back and requested a X-ray . To my surprise vet tells me it might be a heart tumor. Or a parasite close to his heart he is sending to get a ultrasound sound to find out exactly what it is? Any suggestions?

    Feb. 16, 2018

    Copper's Owner

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    Without examining Copper I cannot say what the specific cause of the suspected mass is; whilst nine months is young, tumours are still possible and it would be valuable to have echocardiography done to get a better picture of the size and specific location of this mass. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

    Feb. 16, 2018

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    Gibson Grace Godiva

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    German Shorthaired Pointer

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    12 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Sudden Cough
    Sudden Cough And Loss Of Energy

    Our 12 year old German short-haired pointer was euthanized today and we are heart sick. She experienced some generalized malaise, loss of appetite and 5 lb weight loss about 1 month ago. Took her to see the Vet (regular vet was out so she saw a substitute Vet) and an exam and blood work showed nothing significant. She seemed to rebound, and except for a decrease in her energy level, which we attributed to her age, she was doing well. The evening before her death, we were awoken by a honking-like cough, with gagging. This went on for most of the night. I was able to get an appointment for her to see her normal Vet. Physical exam showed nothing so she suggested a chest x-ray. To my horror she came in to tell me that our Gibson had a grossly enlarged heart, or dilated cardiomyopathy. An ultrasound technician happened to be in the office at that time and an ultrasound was performed. The news was not good and she was diagnosed with a hemangioma sarcoma in her right atrium along with cardiac tamponade. There was no metastasis at present but was told it was an aggressive cancer and her prognosis was poor. She had walked 2 miles with my husband that morning and had a decent appetite. I was blind-sided by the news but made the decision to put her down as it was the humane thing to do. Her remaining life would have been poor. Such a hard decision but the right decision to make. Definitely not the time to be selfish. My husband and I said our goodbyes and held her and whispered to her as she slipped away. Her sickness was brief and as time passes I hope to see how we were all spared an uncertain agony. How I will miss her,

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    Findi

    dog-breed-icon

    schnauzer

    dog-age-icon

    14 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Critical severity

    Has Symptoms

    Loss Of Appetite

    My dog was diagnosed with a tumor around her heart a couple days ago. She has not eaten in almost 5 days and barley drinks water. I took her to the vet this morning and they told me about the large tumor and with surgery she may not make it through the anesthesia because of her bad heart also. I have been crying and just looking at her since then. She can barely stand but I help her and the Doctor told me that he would not suggest surgery because of her age and she may not make it out. I don’t won’t to see her go she has been with me a long time and I am so confused but don’t won’t here to be in pain.

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    George

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    Staffy Bull Bullmastiff

    dog-age-icon

    10 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Fair severity

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    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Fair severity

    Has Symptoms

    Breathing Laboured And Off His Food

    Our 10 yrs old beautiful Staffy cross bull mastiff called George has been very healthy but on the Tuesday of this last week we noticed he was lagging a little on our way home from our nightly walk then he seemed to very tired and by Friday his breathing was a little laboured and he was off his food so we took him to our local vet she checked him over and we left with antibiotics and tablets to get rid of fluid she said to come back for blood checks and arrangements for an Ultrasound as no one was available at that time . George slept in our room that night but the next day he was restless and just would not sit or lay down by tea time we made the decision to take him to the emergency vets were he was given an ultrasound and fluid was discovered around his heart 😢 the vet went away with George and extracted fluid from around his heart and she said if it was clotting she was hopeful but if not we had a bigger problem unfortunately it wasn’t clotting and his gums were now very pale she diagnosed Hemangiosarcoma of the heart and she said the outcome of surgery wasn’t good , I asked for Information on the condition and read through it thoroughly but it was very disheartening we were left alone to make a decision of which we had none really euthanasia was our only option I haven’t stopped crying and are still in shock . Days later I’m still crying and in shock and keep thinking could it have been something else causing the fluid around his heart and his breathing shortness as I don’t think she could actually see the tumour . Maybe we should have done more investigations first .

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    Whitney

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    Golden Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    12 Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

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    1 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Serious severity

    Has Symptoms

    Lethargy

    My 12 year old Golden Retriever was just diagnosed with a Hemangiosarcoma on the heart. She is the third Golden to have one and the second on the heart. After her collapse, diagnosis via ultrasound and draining of the tumor, she was placed on Prednisone, Yunnan Baiyao and an antibiotic which she has now finished. I realize this is very life threatening, the prognosis is grim and we have opted not to do surgery. I am wondering if we decide to drain the tumor again, will the time between tapping be less, each time it is performed.

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    SADIE

    dog-breed-icon

    Labrador Retriever

    dog-age-icon

    Twelve Years

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

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    4 found helpful

    pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

    Moderate severity

    Has Symptoms

    Lethargy
    Disorientation
    Coughing, Shortness Of Breath,

    12 YEAR OLD BLACK LAB MIX Our sweet Sadie was recently diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. She has a tumor on her HEART AND SPLEEN. Although the Vet was very clear in her prognosis, she also said since hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels there is an herbal supplement called YUNNAN BAIYAO which works by strengthening the vessel walls and helps to control bleeding. This is not a cure. It may not even add any additional days to HER life, but it is worth a try. I purchased this herbal supplement from Walmart, on their website. I will update in a month.

    Heart Tumors Average Cost

    From 39 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $15,000

    Average Cost

    $10,000

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